Training Versus Telling
The holidays are over and it is again time to take up the task of teaching and training our children. Most of us who are homeschooling are concerned that we teach our children everything they need to know in order to get into university or college or to generally prepare them for the adult world. I wonder, though, if we give enough thought to developing good habits in our children. I wonder sometimes if we think that since we have covered elementary and high school math, we have taught our children to read and think, we have followed good grammar, spelling, history and science programs, that therefore we have done a good job of homeschooling. But is this really so? If our children havenít learned self-discipline, havenít learned to carry responsibility, and to do chores without repeatedly being told to do so, then maybe we have failed in one of our most important task.
Mothers often complain that they just canít get their children to keep their rooms tidy, or make up their beds before breakfast, or do other chores that they have repeatedly asked their children to do. The fault lies with the parent, not with the child. I know, it is not nice to read that but it is the truth. We cannot expect our children to just learn these things. It takes diligent training on our part. Often we will start off the school year with intentions to instil in our children good habits and though we may start off with a bang, in our busyness we fail to follow through. The children are the first to notice that a parent has derailed and they will be quick to take advantage of a parentís lapse of attention.
Developing good habits must begin at a young age and in the home long before a child is ready for formal school work. When our children are young it is not sufficient to tell them to stop a certain behaviour, or to adopt a better attitude, or do a certain chore. It is not a matter of telling but training and there is a vast difference. In the first place we should be clear that training is not discipline. No amount of discipline can make up for a lack of training. Training begins early and must be taught with a calm voice. It is doing something together with a child, teaching him how to do a task, then watching him do it, and then, with time, expecting him to do it well and without reminders.
But what do we do when they do not do what is expected? How do we train them to be diligent? This training can take several formats. Probably the most effective method is to put consequences in place. The child is told, for example, that if he comes to the table again without straightening his bed then he will need to clean the washroom (or vacuum the family room or whatever you as parents feel is a suitable consequence). The child must know what the consequence is and when you will begin implementing it. And then you must follow through. Excuses are not acceptable.
Just as we need to train them proper early morning habits we need to train them to put school books away when they have completed a subject, to clean up toys when they are finished playing, to share their toys etc. Telling them to do these things is often not enough. We need to be very deliberate in training our children.
Since mothers have the whole day in which they need to be on top of the childrenís behaviour it is important for the father to share this responsibility. It is especially difficult for young moms to stay on top of things and therefore it is crucial that the dad is there to encourage and support his wife. That means, moms, that you need to let your husband know you need his support and what form this support can take. Possibly he can monitor whether the children are following through on instructions. When dad comes home he can help by asking how the children behaved during the day, whether they did their chores and school work diligently, and whether they were polite and helpful. He should ask specific questions so he knows that items were done as agreed upon. Developing good attitudes and habits in our children is not a job for mothers only but is a parental responsibility and only when we are united as parents will we get the desired results.
Getting a good start on a day can be very important to having a good day, and in order for us to have that good start we need everyone to do their part. Dads can help by making sure everyone gets up on time. I know some dads leave the house very early in the morning but most are still home when the rest should be getting up. If your children have trouble getting up in the morning they likely need to get to bed earlier in the evening. If dad is home till say 8am then he can help get breakfast going and make sure everyone is ready to have breakfast with him. Before the children come to breakfast he can ensure that they are dressed, have combed their hair, and straightened their beds. The only way to ensure that this is done is to check their beds before they sit down to eat. If a child consistently comes to breakfast either in pjís or dressed but without having made his or her bed then that child needs to be trained to obey.
We cannot expect our children to be little angels but we should expect them to begin to learn what it means to live as Godís child. They must learn to honour Him in all that they do, to share responsibility and to be kind and helpful. Working diligently is a beginning step. If they do not learn this when they are young they are not likely to be so as adults. Training our children is not easy work and can at times be discouraging but persistence certainly pays off, and you will enjoy the rewards in the years to come.